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Put monarchy to a vote, NDP leadership hopeful says

A portrait of the Queen hangs in the entrance to the Department of Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa, on July 26, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

An NDP leadership candidate is proposing a plebiscite on the future of the monarchy in Canada as part of his proposals on democratic reform.

Nathan Cullen, the MP for Skeena–Bulkley Valley in British Columbia, has already carved out a niche for himself among the eight other leadership candidates. One of his first announcements was an appeal to merger-minded New Democrats with a proposal to run joint nominations with Liberals and Greens in Tory-held ridings.

In his democratic-reform plan, Mr. Cullen is advocating a plebiscite to look at the future of the monarchy. This would come into play when – or if – he becomes prime minister.

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He told The Globe Wednesday that "Canadians have never been asked" about the issue except through the odd poll of 1,000 or so respondents. "Through prorogation we now see a more activist Governor-General and I think Canadians have a right to be asked," he said.

The B.C. MP has also been active on the policy front, attempting to release an issue paper a week during the first phase of the campaign.

"We didn't want this just to be a beauty contest because I knew my chances were slim if it came down to that," Mr. Cullen joked. "So we're trying to make it about ideas. Some folks say it's not about policy in these things and I fundamentally disagree."

As part of his democratic-reform pitch, he is also calling for public financing of political parties to be restored. Stephen Harper is getting rid of the per-vote subsidy as part of an election campaign promise. But Mr. Cullen is suspicious of the Prime Minister's motives.

"Harper will open up the slippery slope and bring back corporate and union financing," the NDP MP said. "You drain the parties and you bring back something that you know is to your advantage. I mean this guy is all strategy, all the time."

He is also calling for the Senate to be abolished, which is in line with party thinking. And he has a proposal on voting reform – a referendum that would ask Canadians if they "a) want to change the voting system; and b) which new model they prefer," according to his policy paper.

The paper notes that he supports "mixed-member proportional representation, based on the German, Scottish and New Zealand models, which: Ensures every riding has a local MP, elected as they currently are, while ensuring the total composition of the House reflects each party's share of the national vote; Avoids instability and fragmentation by requiring parties receive broad support – five per cent – before being awarded proportional seats."

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Next week, Mr. Cullen will be issuing a policy paper on taxation. And NDP leadership candidates are also holding their first debate in Ottawa on Dec. 4. The topic is "building an inclusive economy."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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